Early voting gets underway in Maryland as many voters opt to request mail-in ballots

Early voting is underway in Maryland’s presidential primary. Voters can go to any early voting center in the county where they are registered and cast their ballots from now until May 9.

But hundreds of thousands of voters have already requested ballots allowing them to vote by mail, an option that’s become increasingly popular since the pandemic. According to the Maryland State Board of Elections website, a total of 624,656 mail-in ballots had been requested statewide as of April 30.

The highest number of mail-in ballots — 131,621 — were requested in Montgomery County.

Also as of April 30, 178,811 ballots had been filled out and returned to the 24 boards of elections around the state. Montgomery County’s board has received 23,704 mail-in ballots and Prince George’s County received 24,012.

Gilberto Zelaya is the public information and community engagement officer for the Montgomery County Board of Elections. He told WTOP that voters feel confident in the mail-in ballot process. Zelaya said voters also enjoy the convenience of voting by mail.

“They could vote from home, from work or somewhere else around the globe,” he said.

Ruie Lavoie, vice president of the Maryland Association of Election Officials and the Baltimore County elections director, agrees that convenience is a major factor for the popularity of mail-in ballots. She said voters also enjoy “having time to consider the different choices they have” in each political contest without having to stand in line.

Zelaya added that sometimes voters change their minds, and while they may have requested a mail-in ballot, they then decide to show up at an early voting center or want to cast their ballot on Election Day. In that case, he said, “They will need to vote a provisional ballot [at the polling place].”

Mail-in ballots can be dropped off in drop boxes. Zelaya said there are 58 drop boxes in Montgomery County.

“To identify the closest drop box in Montgomery County, all you need to do is text the word ‘box’ and your ZIP code to 77788,” Zelaya said.

Getting the mail-in ballots ready for processing while also conducting early voting means working long hours for seven days a week, Lavoie said.

“It takes 15 to 18 months to prepare for an election,” she said. “This is our favorite time, believe it or not.”

Lavoie said it’s exciting to see voters participating in the election process.

“We’re ready for the primary, and all the voters that come out to vote whether it’s early voting or on Election Day,” she said.

May 14 is Maryland’s primary Election Day. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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